Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mugged By Reality

The title for Thomas Sowell's latest columns, "Mugged By Reality in Iraq" and Mugged by Reality: Part II, are taken from a book by John Agresto, "a career American academic and former college president who volunteered to go help create a better higher education system in Iraq." The complete title of the book is "Mugged by Reality: The Liberation of Iraq and the Failure of Good Intentions." Sowell writes:

The worst mistake, in Agresto's view, was the failure to establish law and order in the wake of the military victory, before undertaking the grandiose project of attempting to create democracy in Iraq. From this fundamental mistake, many of the other tragedies followed.

In the absence of law and order, there was widespread violence, looting, rape -- in short, the war of each against all that Hobbes warned about, centuries ago.

As for democracy, Agresto understands that the right to vote is no guarantee of freedom, toleration or respect for the rights of others. Without those prerequisites, democracy can mean tyranny at home and terrorism abroad.

Apparently the American civilian authorities in Iraq did not understand this or else they let that understanding be overridden by political considerations. By setting up a government based on warring factions, they made cooperation in the national interest a very unlikely prospect.

Today, when more and more Iraqis are rejecting the outside terrorists whom the media keep calling "insurgents," and when our military is restoring more order than Iraq has seen in a while, the most intractable problem is the very government we set up.

I could just quote the complete text of both articles, especially the part about General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne's success in Mosul, which fell into disorder after he left. The same man who wrote the counterinsurgency field manual, and leader of the "surge," has been slimed for his success in the name of political expediency.

I never agreed with the Bush administration's handling of the political side of the war. We have placed all our eggs in the basket of the al-Maliki government. Sowell compares the factional division in Iraq to the centuries old battle between the protestants and catholics. They finally agreed to coexist, more or less, without trying to exterminate each other. "Sunnis and Shi'ites have yet to reach a similar accommodation in Iraq," writes Sowell.
What recent progress has been made in Iraq has apparently been made by mobilizing traditional local and regional Iraqi leaders and coalitions, not by relying on the democratically elected central government. There may be a lesson there.

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